Vineyards galore, splendid architecture and sleepy villages, all paired with incredibly gentle cycling, make Bordeaux the ideal region to tour by ...Read more
Tips for newcomers to Cycling for Softies These tips are aimed at people who have done a bit of cycling in their youth; who know how to cycle but might be a bit rusty or nervous, and who are not technically minded. In fact people like me!
There are gears on both handlebars but you only need to use the ones on the right handlebar which are sufficient for most terrains. They are very easy to master. Occasionally you might need the gears on the left for a steep hill, but these work in the opposite direction to the ones on the right. All far too complicated for me - I found it easier to stick with the ones on the right, and then just get off and walk if the hill was a bit too steep.
Padded shorts are a very good idea. The bikes are high quality and comfortable but by the third day, I slightly regretted not having thought about this. Although even without them, any discomfort on the buttock bones is only for the first 20 minutes or so, as it’s amazing how quickly you become accustomed to spending a few hours in the saddle each day.
Gentle cycle paths and quiet roads do not start from the hotel door. Even Cycling for Softies can’t arrange that! Be prepared for a few busier roads at the start and end of the day to access them. There’s a wonderful feeling when you reach what I called a “Softies” road: the traffic melts away, the only noise is the cicadas and the birds, and the only sights are the endless wheat fields, lavender, vines and sunflowers.
The French are courteous drivers and the roads are easy to cycle; even the main roads have cycle lanes, but we were advised by our rep that it works best if you do not hug the kerb and cycle more confidently slightly away from the side so that passing cars take notice of you. On most roads this is not relevant, but it’s good to know. A friendly wave and smile to car drivers who give way is always appreciated.
Take your time - around 25 miles each day is not that far and should take no more than 2-3 actual pedalling. That leaves plenty of time to stop for drinks, enjoy the views, listen to the sounds, explore the local sights, take photos, and, all importantly, to have a leisurely lunch. I would not personally recommend drinking any wine at lunchtime. There’s plenty of opportunity for that in the evenings at the wonderful restaurants which Cycling for Softies prebook for you.
Planning in advance where you are going to have lunch is a good idea on routes which are very rural, and taking a picnic is also option. We shopped for at the local market – bread, cheese, tomatoes, apricots – put everything in the handy paniers, and then assembled a lovely lunch next to the river.
The Ride with GPS App is great and very easy to follow with the routes clearly laid out. However, occasionally the signal is weak or lost, and of course that happens when you are in the depths of the countryside, so the additional paper maps which are provided come in very handy. It’s worth checking the app and the map before you go so that you know where on the map the route goes. Be sure that at least one of you knows how to read a map!
Each hotel has a bike rack provided to park your bike. Bike locks are provided, as well as the panier in which to keep them and the tool kit. There are few feelings more pleasant than peddling into a hotel courtyard at the end of a day’s cycling, securing your bike, and then stepping right into your room, shortly followed of course by the reward of a cold beer.
Debbie travelled with us on our Starry Nights in Provence tour. If you’d like to experience the tour for yourself, find out more here.
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